The Challenge of Public Speaking: Impromptu Speaking

“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.” – Lily Walters

When it comes to public speaking, people are generally divided into two categories – those who are so terrified of it that they think they will never take the opportunity to do it and those who believe that they are already good enough at it that they do not require outside help.  On July 30th I facilitated a skills building lunch – a collaboration between Los Angeles Women’s Network and FIG Masters Toastmasters Club.  The purpose was twofold – to allow everyone in attendance to get up and practice their public speaking skills and to promote our club.  Impromptu speaking part of Toastmasters meeting is called Table Topics.

The primary goal of the Table Topics is to allow all meeting attendees – those who did not give an prepared speech and did not have a role assigned – an opportunity to face their fear of public speaking, think on their feet, and find their confidence.  They give club members and guests a chance to develop an ability to organize their thoughts quickly and be able to respond to any impromptu question.  As if you think about it – many of our daily conversations are impromptu speaking.  Here are the tips that I offered before opening up the lectern.

  1. After you are given your topic, you are allowed up to 10 seconds to organize your thoughts.
  2. The target length of the talk is 1 to 2 minutes. The timer will give you a “green light” at 1 minute, “yellow light” at 1 minute 30 seconds, and a “red light” at 2 minutes.
  3. The best way to handle this talk is to think of it as an mini-speech:
    1. Have a beginning – your opening statement.
    2. Have a body:
      1. Give reasons that support your opening statement.
      2. Provide examples.
    3. Finally, have a conclusion – restate your main statement.
  4. One easy response is to “tell a story” – tie your talk to something that has happen to you. You are always welcome to use your imagination – we all adore magic castles and unicorns.  And a handsome prince on a white horse makes the deal even sweeter.
  5. Try to appear confident. It will give you credibility.
  6. Don’t apologize. Don’t say things like I am not good at this.  I am not prepared, etc.  This undermines your credibility.
  7. Know when to quit. Simply stop when you are done making your point.  Do not ramble.  Theoretically, you only need to talk for 60 seconds.
  8. If you just cannot think of anything at all to say about the topic that was given to you, you can always talk about why it is so hard for you to talk about this topic.
  9. As a last resort you are allowed to play a skilled politician – you can change the subject to the one you are more comfortable talking about.
  10. Finally, my personal advice – HAVE FUN! We are all here just to hear you talk.

Now… take a deep breath and get ready to be awesome!

Please visit Toastmasters International website to locate a club near you.



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